There was some thought last week that if all went well, Andris Biedrins and perhaps Ronny Turiaf could return in time for this week’s games, including a tough two-day swing through Texas that begins today against the Dallas Mavericks (10-3) and ends Wednesday with a date in San Antonio against the Spurs (6-6).

Today’s game
Warriors at Dallas Mavericks (10-3)
5:30 p.m., CSN Bay Area

Unfortunately, Turiaf remains day-to-day with his ailing left knee, and it’s unclear when he will return. Biedrins, meanwhile, had an MRI on Monday which showed he still has a moderate strain of an abdominal muscle. He will miss at least another week, as he won’t be evaluated again until next week.

The news is disappointing as it seemed possible that Turiaf and Biedrins could both return this week. But, until then the Warriors will continue to play short-handed. The Warriors seven- or eight-man lineup, which made its debut three games ago after Stephen Jackson was traded, has competed better than the team was before the trade, beating Portland and hanging tight in road losses in Cleveland and Boston. The team still has trouble defending (both in points allowed and opponent field goal percentage), even after a stellar defensive effort in the win against the Blazers. The short-handed lineup has continued to shoot the ball well and score a lot of points (though both those numbers are down from their season stats). The biggest improvement we’ve seen from this lineup in the past three games has been in rebounding differential.

Three games is obviously a small sample size, but take a look anyway:

Points allowed

Season: 111.7

Last 3 games: 105.7

Warriors points scored

Season: 109.6

Last 3: 103.6

Opponent field goal percentage

Season: 49.9%

Last 3: 50.8%

Warriors field goal percentage

Season: 48.6%

Last 3: 46.8%

Opponent rebounds

Season: 44.8

Last 3: 38.3

Warriors rebounds

Season: 37.2

Last 3: 36.3

So, what does this all mean with the Texas road trip looming? The rebounding numbers are encouraging, especially considering the three teams they played are all pretty good rebounding teams. Tonight’s opponent, the Mavericks are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, however, averaging 45.6 rebounds per game, including almost 12 offensive rebounds per game. San Antonio is also good, averaging 43.1 rebounds and nearly 11 offensive boards. If they want to win either of these two games, the Warriors need to hold these two teams under 40 rebounds and keep the differential between 3 and 5.

Barring some unforeseeable defensive awakening, it doesn’t look like this team will have much success defending this season, so the Warriors’ formula for success will be to shoot the ball well, take advantage of every transition opportunity, and force turnovers while keep their own takeaways down. The Warriors beat the Blazers on Sunday because they shot the ball well (47.6 percent, 53.8 on 3-pointers), dominated the Blazers in transition and forced a lot of turnovers (23). They’ll need to keep it up if they want more wins.

The absence of Don Nelson on this trip is an interesting subplot. It’s unfortunate the coach has pneumonia (and possibly swine flu), and let’s hope he gets better soon. However, it will be interesting to watch and see if assistant coach Keith Smart, who will take over for Nelson on the sidelines, does anything differently in his first opportunity to coach a game without Nelson present. Smart, who is considered by many to be Nelson’s eventual successor, said that he won’t change anything, but we’ll certainly be watching to see if he tinkers with anything. This might be a sneak-peek at the coaching future of the Warriors, so it’s definitely an interesting story line for the next two or possibly three games.

Check out a statistical comparison of the Warriors and Mavericks, and the Warriors and Spurs.

Here’s an Associated Press preview of today’s game.

Go read feltbot’s game preview. Some good thoughts there about whether Smart will stick to Nelson’s playing rotation.

Enjoy the game tonight!